1. THE INVITATION
a. What invitation does Jesus give to all? Matthew 11:28–30.
“It is a mistake to think that you must come to repentance before you can come to Jesus. Come to Christ just as you are, and contemplate His love until your hard heart is broken.”—The Review and Herald, September 3, 1901.
b. What was Nicodemus impressed to do and why? John 3:1, 2
“Nicodemus had heard the preaching of John the Baptist concerning repentance and baptism, and pointing the people to One who should baptize with the Holy Spirit. He himself had felt that there was a lack of spirituality among the Jews, that, to a great degree, they were controlled by bigotry and worldly ambition. He had hoped for a better state of things at the Messiah’s coming. Yet the heart-searching message of the Baptist had failed to work in him conviction of sin. He was a strict Pharisee, and prided himself on his good works. He was widely esteemed for his benevolence and his liberality in sustaining the temple service, and he felt secure of the favor of God.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 171.
2. YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN
a. According to Jesus, what must a person be before they can see the kingdom of heaven and why? John 3:3.
“[Nicodemus] was startled at the thought of a kingdom too pure for him to see in his present state.”—Ibid., p. 171.
“No man can of himself understand his errors. ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?’ Jeremiah 17:9. The lips may express a poverty of soul that the heart does not acknowledge. While speaking to God of poverty of spirit, the heart may be swelling with the conceit of its own superior humility and exalted righteousness. In one way only can a true knowledge of self be obtained. We must behold Christ. It is ignorance of Him that makes men so uplifted in their own righteousness. When we contemplate His purity and excellence, we shall see our own weakness and poverty and defects as they really are. We shall see ourselves lost and hopeless, clad in garments of self-righteousness, like every other sinner. We shall see that if we are ever saved, it will not be through our own goodness, but through God’s infinite grace.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 159.
b. How did Jesus explain this truth further to Nicodemus and what did He mean by it? John 3:4–6.
“Jesus continued: ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ By nature, the heart is evil, and ‘who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.’ Job 14:4. No human invention can find a remedy for the sinning soul. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ ‘Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.’ Rom. 8:7; Matt. 15:19. The fountain of the heart must be purified before the streams can become pure. He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. There is no safety for one who has merely a legal religion, a form of godliness. The Christian’s life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 172.
3. TURNING AROUND
a. What essential blessing does the gospel also include and why? Galatians 3:14; Acts 3:26.
b. Why is it impossible of ourselves to turn from a sinful life? Romans 8:7.
“It is impossible for us, of ourselves, to escape from the pit of sin in which we are sunken. Our hearts are evil, and we cannot change them. ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.’ ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ Job 14:4; Romans 8:7. Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but here they are powerless. They may produce an outward correctness of behaviour, but they cannot change the heart; they cannot purify the springs of life. There must be a power working from within, a new life from above, before men can be changed from sin to holiness. That power is Christ. His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul, and attract it to God, to holiness.
“The Saviour said, ‘Except a man be born from above,’ unless he shall receive a new heart, new desires, purposes, and motives, leading to a new life, ‘he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ John 3:3, margin.”—Steps to Christ, p. 18.
c. While we cannot of ourselves change our sinful heart, what can we do? Joshua 24:15.
“What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.”—Ibid., p. 47.
4. HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE?
a. Who changes our hearts and how? John 3:7, 8; John 12:32.
“The wind is heard among the branches of the trees, rustling the leaves and flowers; yet it is invisible, and no man knows whence it comes or whither it goes. So with the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. It can no more be explained than can the movements of the wind. A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place, or to trace all the circumstances in the process of conversion; but this does not prove him to be unconverted. By an agency as unseen as the wind, Christ is constantly working upon the heart. Little by little, perhaps unconsciously to the receiver, impressions are made that tend to draw the soul to Christ. These may be received through meditating upon Him, through reading the Scriptures, or through hearing the word from the living preacher. Suddenly, as the Spirit comes with more direct appeal, the soul gladly surrenders itself to Jesus. By many this is called sudden conversion; but it is the result of long wooing by the Spirit of God,—a patient, protracted process.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 172.
“The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance for his sins, which have caused the sufferings of God’s dear Son.”—Steps to Christ, p. 27.
b. To be “born again” is to receive a new heart—new desires, purposes and motives. What must we feed upon to be born again? 1 Peter 1:23; 2:2.
“When truth becomes an abiding principle in the life, the soul is ‘born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.’ This new birth is the result of receiving Christ as the Word of God. When by the Holy Spirit divine truths are impressed upon the heart, new conceptions are awakened, and the energies hitherto dormant are aroused to co-operate with God.”—Acts of the Apostles, p. 520.
c. What light does God use to change our hearts? 2 Corinthians 4:6.
5. BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD
a. What must we realise for ourselves about Jesus in order to be changed? John 3:14, 15; John 1:29.
“Christ must be revealed to the sinner as the Saviour dying for the sins of the world; and as we behold the Lamb of God upon the cross of Calvary, the mystery of redemption begins to unfold to our minds and the goodness of God leads us to repentance. In dying for sinners, Christ manifested a love that is incomprehensible; and as the sinner beholds this love, it softens the heart, impresses the mind, and inspires contrition in the soul.”—Steps to Christ, pp. 26, 27.
b. When we surrender ourselves to Christ, what will take place? Ezekiel 36:26, 27.
“As the sinner, drawn by the power of Christ, approaches the uplifted cross, and prostrates himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. Holiness finds that it has nothing more to require. God Himself is ‘the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’ Rom. 3:26. And ‘whom He justified, them He also glorified.’ Rom. 8:30.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 163.
c. When we are born again, in what alone will we glory? Galatians 6:14.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What essential experience will Christ give all who come to Him?
2. What must you realise about yourself if you are to be born again?
3. Why do we find it so hard to do the right thing?
4. What must you feed upon if you are to experience the new birth?
5. What does God promise to do when we surrender all to Christ?